I’ve never had anything really horrible happen while traveling. Well, I mean, there was that time my sister and I got mold poisoning and had to move out of our flat…twice. And that one time I almost got ran over by a car on my first day in a new city. Oh, and having to go the hospital for the first time since my birth in a country where I barely functionally speak the language. Other than that… not really. Ultimately, things have a way of working out, and it’s fortunate that they do because a mere month ago—over the course of less than a week—I faced and conquered not only one, but TWO of my traveling nightmares. One became a reality really really early in the morning the day before the eve before Christmas. Christmas Eve’s Eve’s Eve? Regardless… let’s start with this: international ain’t easy in Asturias.
Oviedo was a cheap city to live in until you tried to leave. Tickets out of Aeropuerto Asturias were expensive for European travel, so when it came time to go back to the U.S. I decided to look for tickets in larger nearby cities. I opted for an early flight out of Bilbao. I could leave Oviedo on the 12 AM bus and get to Bilbao in time to get a coffee and catch my flight. Perfecto. But, as some old Irish man once said, the best laid plans of mice and Fernweh aft go awry, and this one totally did.
I got one last sidra & morcilla with a friend and then grabbed my bags and headed to the bus station early to purchase my ticket, taking a taxi because I wasn’t about to drag myself through the city in the burgeoning rain. Once I arrived, I went up to the kiosk and tried to get a ticket, but the bus to Bilbao wasn’t showing up. I went to the help booth and anxiously inquired. Sold Out.
The next bus was coming at 6:45 AM, which was when my plane left–from a city 3 hours away. I waited for the 12 AM bus to arrive and asked the driver if there was any chance he could squeeze me in… I was nearly willing to ride in the luggage hold. I had to get to that flight. He told me there was no way and I dejectedly watched the bus pull out of Oviedo. Spanish bus schedules are flexible, though their seating clearly isn’t.
My cell service had run out, so I was a slave to wifi, and Oviedo’s bus terminal has no internet. I ran to a hotel nearby, suitcase, carry on, and tote in hand, and tried to find a BlaBlaCar, train, a bus to a nearby city, another flight… anything to get me to my flight, which was supposed to arrive just in time for me to surprise my mom and celebrate Christmas with my family. Nada. My next option? The longest taxi of my life (to date and hopefully ever).
I found a taxi and told them I wanted to go to Bilbao. I had to explain the situation and repeat “Yes, I’m sure, I have to,” in Spanish AND English before the driver believed me and told me I had to pay up front, so we agreed on the fare and I handed over my card. Declined. Next card? Declined. Try again. Declined. Try for a significantly lower amount. Declined.
I disembarked from the taxi with all my bags and returned to the bus station, now my center of operations, utterly panicking. I had less than an hour to leave, traffic and travel time taken into account, having used up most of my leeway in searching for another option and running around. A station officer and random man noticed my distress and offered to take care of my bags while I ran back to the hotel and talked to my credit card companies. I did so, and twenty minutes later ran back to try my card in a second taxi. This time, however, there were none. Not many taxis show up at the bus station in the middle of the night, so the kind, maleta-guarding, Spanish Man offered to call one for me. Five minutes later we’re trying, and failing, to get my cards to work. I time-check myself. Pardon my French but… hijo de puta, I’m almost out of time.
Another hotel wifi run, but this time the previous sprinkle had turned into a downpour and my scarf wasn’t cutting it as a raincoat. After making it through the five-minute robot screening every call line has, I get the most casually-delivered bad news I’ve ever received to date. On the other side of the line someone in Atlanta, Georgia, informs me that my credit card and primary debit card have been flagged for fraudulent activity and frozen by Visa Corporate.
If there is ever a time for a flowery Spanish curse this is it. ¡Me cago en mi puta vida! I frantically wrack my brain and dig out my not frequently-used, old and decrepit, stateside-only debit card. I call the bank, inform them I’m going to be making a large withdrawal, ‘from Spain–how exotic!’, and race to an ATM, praying nothing else happens.
Fifteen minutes later I’m back at the bus station, wet cash in hand. The Maleta Man had to call the taxi back, but I left Oviedo, Bilbao-bound, with two minutes to spare, thanking God & Maleta Man, whom I learned was named Paco when the taxi driver let me borrow his cell phone to thank him for so kindly staying in the bus station until 2:30 AM holding onto my luggage. Humanity sometimes surprises me with their kindnesses, of which I am clearly undeserving.
So, there you have it. My mom was elated to see me, Christmas was filled with love and amazing food, and my bank account is still suffering from the effects of my adventures on Christmas Eve’s Eve’s Eve. But I’m still alive and wasn’t crammed into the luggage bin on an ALSA bus. I’m resolved to travel, come hell, high water, or €350 taxis…I might just plan to leave a day early next time though.
I’m overdue on writing about the last five months of living in Spain, but Part 2 of my nightmares becoming reality will be coming shortly. After that we can talk about more Spanish cursing and why it’s not that bad, Mom, and how much the Asturias are not a good place for anyone interested in being vegan. I’m back and ready to write.